Why California is circling the drain, fitted sheets edition

**Posted by Phineas

So, let’s think about this for a minute. California’s economy is in the dumps — if the nation is in a recession, we’re in a depression. Businesses(1) arefleeing the state because the cost of doing business here (taxes, regulations) is too darned high. We have a $25 billion dollar deficit and we’re facing massive unfunded obligations on public-employee pensions, which are only growing. If we were a separate country, we’d make Greece look like Switzerland.

So, what does our legislature do? Focus all its efforts on our fiscal and economic mess? Bend every effort to bring businesses back to California?

What have you been drinking?

Nope. Our state senate is even now considering a bill to deal with the top problem facing California today: the lack of fitted sheets in hotel rooms:

The bill, SB 432, calls for hotels to use fitted sheets that require less lifting of mattresses weighing up to 100 pounds than traditional flat sheets.

It also calls for hotels to use mops and long-handled tools so that housekeepers would no longer have to stoop or kneel to scrub bathrooms and floors.

The measure was introduced by state Sen. Kevin de LeΓ³n, D-Los Angeles, and backed by the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association and the hotel workers union, UNITE HERE.

Naturally, the bill’s proponents brought to the hearing witnesses to testify about how they’ve suffered having to lift mattresses and scrub toilets. And there are studies that purport to show a higher rate of injury for hotel cleaning staff than the national average, though I’d want to check their work before taking their findings as holy writ(2). Nor am I unsympathetic to manual laborers, especially janitorial, work which I used to do. It can be wearing.

But, when the state’s economy is such a wreck, it seems counterproductive at best to impose new costs on businesses, costs that will either be passed on to the consumer(3) or balanced by hiring fewer workers — or both. As a local hotel association has argued:

The California Hotel & Lodging Association has said the fitted-sheet mandate alone will cost the industry across the state at least $15 million.

Hyatt Grand Champions GM Allan Farwell said their property, and many others in the desert, would have to replace flat linens if the measure is approved, as would many other local resorts and hotels.

Julius Kazen, president of the Palm Springs Hospitality Association, said the measure, besides posing an economic burden to properties, also would set dangerous precedent.

β€œIt’s not the government’s place to get involved in the intricacies of our industry,” he said.

And it’s not just the big, evil, corporate hotel chains that would be affected by this (and could more easily absorb the costs), but small businesses, too: Mom-and-Pop motels started by immigrant families, or bed-and-breakfasts run by people seeking a second career — these would face higher costs and would thus be less likely to hire more help.

But Kazen makes a key point at the end of that last quote: it isn’t government’s place to regulate the minutiae of how a business operates. Granted, states have been assumed to have a general police power since the foundation of the Republic, so I have little doubt that Sacramento has the authority to pass this bill.

But it isn’t wise. Not when we have so many more pressing matters to deal with and not when we should be doing everything to make it easier for businesses to operate here, not to drive them away. Nor should we be taking on additional regulatory expenses.

On a more philosophical note, this is also a wrong-headed intrusion of government into places it doesn’t belong, even if it has the authority to go there. If the legislature can mandate the types of sheets and housecleaning tools used in a business, how long will it be before they see a need to save us from ourselves and mandate what kind of sheets and tools we can use in our own homes? This is another case of Nanny State minding our own business.

If there’s a problem with working conditions, then the hotel workers should agitate through their unions with their employers to get better conditions. If there’s an on-the-job injury, California has a strong Worker’s Comp program. But, beyond that, the state should just stay out.

And legislators should worry about the state’s balance sheet, not a hotel’s bedsheets.

via Baseball Crank

LINKS: Here’s the text of the bill. Note that the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association is a grouping of worker’s comp attorneys, and thus hardly disinterested. State Senator de Leon represents the same district that used to elect leftists Jackie Goldberg and Gil Cedillo. He’s also been a member of the California Teachers Association and worked for the NEA. With that, you can imagine his opinion of the proper role of the state.


(1) You know, those evil things that create jobs.

(2) I mean, one originated with a labor institute at Berkeley. Yeah, I’ll trust in their objectivity.

(3) Who may then decide to spend less, or not come at all, reminding us that increasing costs lowers revenues. Something Sacramento should learn.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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